Farmers can use big data to help them get better and higher quality yields without high investment costs, thanks to a new project developed at the University of Reading.

The EIT Food-funded LinkDAPA project provides arable farmers with a low-cost, simple way to use big data to help highlight areas of their fields that are likely to give higher yields.

For 2020, the scheme has developed computer processes that take historical and current data on a farmer’s fields and creates maps for wheat fields that shows farmers the potential yield and grain quality (protein) variation as well as probabilities that yield/quality will exceed farmer specified thresholds.

The platform enables farmers to receive tailored advice on how to optimise use of resources and increase profitability while minimising risks of environmental damage.

A prototype platform will be available in December 2020, and will be rolled out with partner farms from 2021.

Prof Alistair Murdoch, Professor of Weed Science at the University of Reading is leading the LinkDAPA project. He said:

“The aim of LinkDAPA is to help farmers use ‘big data’ to help them be more profitable, more precise in their planning and also benefit the environment. Complex ‘big’ data sets have up until now been unviable for applying in a small setting, but through LinkDAPA they are now available for each field to optimise profitability of their current crops using precision agriculture approaches.

“One of the exciting developments that we’ve been working on this year is that the LinkDAPA platform is able to predict how likely it is that a farmer will increase their profits by following precision crop management compared to uniform applications.

“Another innovative opportunity that can also be achieved by using the platform is an option of zonal harvesting for to reduce grain drying costs or increase likelihood of achieving higher grain protein quality premium).”

All farmers (in Italy, Germany and the UK) in whose fields the research is taking place, readily agreed with the importance of the system. Simon Beddows of Coppid Farming near Reading, with whom the team are working, expressed the view that the approach is the “future of farming”.

The project has been developed in partnership between the University of Reading, University of Hohenheim, Germany, and agriculture firms John Deere and Agricolus.